Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Chocolate, Almond & Cranberry Bites - 200 Christmas Recipes Review

Unfortunately this little book, 200 Christmas recipes in the Hamlyn All Colour Cookbook series, didn't arrive in time to be really useful for Christmas. There must have been some sort of glitch in the despatch system as I didn't receive the book, sent by Octopus Publishing for review, until a couple of days before Christmas. I did, however, manage to squeeze in one recipe - another one for my second batch of hampers - mulled wine biscuits or as I have named my adapted version, chocolate, almond and cranberry bites.

At only £4.99 I'd say this book is good value for money. It's quite compact, measuring only 16.5 cm by 14 cm but this is quite a nice size to be easily portable and won't take up a lot of room on the bookshelf. As you'd expect from the title, it is stuffed full of Christmas recipes and covers everything you would expect plus quite a bit more. There aren't actually two hundred different recipes but most of the hundred or so recipes there are has a variation which bumps the number up. For example, no self respecting Christmas book would be complete without a recipe for red cabbage and this one does not disappoint: a really interesting recipe for braised red cabbage makes an appearance, using beetroot and red wine amongst other ingredients; the variation printed at the bottom of the page is for crunchy red cabbage.

Each recipe has its own double page spread, the recipe on one side and the much sought after full colour picture on the other, which makes it particularly useful for flicking through when you're in a panic for ideas. The recipes are clear and easy to follow, although perhaps not detailed enough for a complete novice.

The book starts off with an eight page introduction giving tips on such necessities as carving the Christmas bird and making giblet stock for the gravy. As a vegetarian, I didn't really find either of these particularly useful, but the recipe for a Madeira cake to be used as a base for several of the recipes and how to sterilise jars was more my thing. A big chapter on Christmas fare followed this which included various meat dishes but also plenty to keep vegetarians such as myself happy. Lots of ideas for puddings were also in this section with two Christmas pudding recipes, a traditional one and a last minute one to help out the less organised amongst us. Ricotta and candied fruit slice particularly grabbed my attention.

Other chapters covered: centrepiece cakes, small cakes and cookies, edible gifts and leftover turkey ideas. Plenty there to inspire me for next year and plenty to keep the, errr,  chocoholics happy. There is even a recipe for fruit & nut discs which is very similar to my glitzy mendiants. A recipe for ginger nightlights particularly caught my eye - a lovely idea using gingerbread with boiled sweet panes for the tea lights to glow through. With lots of choice and not much time, I was torn between panforte de Siena and the mulled wine biscuits which I eventually went for - only I used sherry rather than red wine. Port and cherry cookies were the alternative version offered and if I'd had any dried cherries to hand I might well have used those instead.

This is how I made them:

  • Warmed 120g raisins and 75g dried cranberries in 50ml orange juice, 50ml sherry and 1 tbsp of apple jelly in a pan to not quite simmering.
  • Covered and left to soak for an hour.
  • Melted 50g unsalted butter in a pan and left to cool a little.
  • Sifted 3oz flour (half wholemeal, half white) into a bowl with 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/8 tsp ground cloves.
  • Mixed in 100g chopped blanched almonds, 100g chopped dark chocolate (G&B Maya gold) and the grated zest of 1 orange.
  • Made a well in the centre and broke in an egg then added the fruit and butter.
  • Mixed this all together.
  • Spooned 28 teaspoonfuls onto a lined baking sheet placing slightly apart.
  • Baked at 180C for 15 minutes or so.
  • Transferred to a wire rack to cool.
  • Dusted with icing sugar.
What I particularly liked about these biscuits was that there was no added sugar to the mix and with all that dried fruit and the apple jelly there was no need; these biscuits were quite sweet enough. They were also very tasty - fruity, spicy, crunchy and festive.


25 comments:

  1. Too bad you didn't get the book in time, but there's always next Christmas! Love the sound of these biscuits with those warm fruity flavours.

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  2. these sound lovely - and would be great over the winter months - shame the book was late but I think that the 12 days of christmas after 25th give us leeway to continue making festive recipes - any excuse for a little more christmas baking

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  3. Do you know, I have this book, and never baked from it (hanging my head in shame!) and what a great recipe to have neglected on my part! Going to the book shelf to find said book right now ;0)

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  4. Leaf - thank you. Indeed next Christmas will be here before I've realised this one has finished!!!

    Johanna - very true. And I have my mother's birthday cake to make for the end of the month - haven't decided what yet.

    Chele - that's funny. Maybe it's been hiding behind all the big books just waiting to be remembered.

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  5. Mmmm they look so good!
    I have a real bad craving for cranberries lately too!

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  6. You chose a great recipe from the book! I have two of these books but not the Christmas one. I may have to add it to my collection, I like to look of those mulled wine biscuits!

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  7. I have that book and agree that for it's small size it packs quite a lot in. Your bites look lovely - I bet it's impossible to eat only one!

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  8. That's a lovely combination and I'd eat those anytime. Lovely!

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  9. Its a shame you didnt get the book before Christmas but your little bites look really good, especially with their dusting of icing sugar!

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  10. Love how you say this book is 'stuffed' with recipes - very fitting! These little gems sound the perfect festive treat. Wishing you a wonderful New Year and many more chocolatey gems in 2012!

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  11. MY book arrived 4 days before Christmas and I still have not posted my blog review.....need to make something for New Year! Those look wonderful though.....I am amazed how many recipes are in this little book, it is very impressive!

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  12. They sound yummy! And I love the idea of gingerbread night lights, I'll be making those next Christmas, if not before!

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  13. I've got so many Christmassy recipes saved from blogs I'm not sure I need this book but it does sound good! And your cookies look lovely - the perfect combination of chocolate and fruit.

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  14. I'm not so much of book person wrt to cooking, they perfectly act as my bed time story books...sad that it reached late....but there always next time!! cookies looks fantastic very happy new year chocolate lady, oh did i mention i'm done with my PhD studies ;)

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  15. Oooh they sound rather intriguing and a good use of odds and ends around Christmas. Like the sound of the spicing and chocolate!

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  16. always on the look out for xmas recipes. I'll have to have a look at this book!

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  17. A good Christmas book always tells you how to carve the turkey - that's the bit I struggle with. Thanks for the review.

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  18. Like the cupcakes on the front picture of the book.

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  19. Need this book for more ideas.

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  20. im so going to try some of these

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  21. A good review,looks very interesting, the recipe for chocolate almond and cranberry bites looks delicious.

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  22. I know we are in the height of the summer, but Christmas isn't far away and this book sounds absolutely amazing! I love baking at Christmas and we are always entertaining over the festive period, so this books looks to be filled with amazing ideas!

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